Tag Archives: Parent

Great Classes for Kids AND Parents: Parent Education Programs and Cooperative Preschools

Classrooms in the Bellevue College Program

Classrooms in the Bellevue College Program – click for larger view

Are you a parent of a baby, toddler, or preschool age child? Are you looking for:

  • A place where your child can explore toys, do art, hear stories, sing songs, and make friends?
  • A fun activity to do with your child where s/he learns new skills and you get new ideas?
  • Opportunities to meet other families and build community?
  • Expert advice and research-based information about parenting and child development?
  • Support from professionals and other parents for the challenges of life with a little one?

You can find all these great opportunities in one place!

In the Seattle area**, our community colleges sponsor parent education programs, including parent-tot programs and cooperative preschools, which are a fabulous resource for families. For children, classes offer hands-on learning, discovery and play. For adults, they offer on-going education on all topics related to parenting, and connections to other parents.

What is the children’s experience like?

The programs are play-based, because research shows children learn best through hands-on exploration in places where they feel safe and free to explore. Each classroom has several stations around the room, with developmentally appropriate activities to help kids build the skills they need. Children are encouraged to move around and explore at their own pace. In parent-child programs (aka “mommy and me classes”) for babies and toddlers, parents play along with their children. In coop preschools, working parents are assigned to a station:

  • Art activities: play-dough to roll, easels to paint at, markers for learning to write
  • Sensory activities: tubs of water or rice or beans to scoop, pour, stir, and run fingers through
  • Large motor: mats for tumbling, tunnels to crawl through, climbers and slides, balls to throw
  • Small motor: blocks to stack, puzzles to assemble, shape sorters to solve, beads to thread
  • Imaginary play: dress up zone for trying on new roles, dolls to care for, kitchen for “cooking”
  • Science experiences: seeds to plant, tadpoles to watch, items from nature to explore
  • Snack time: a place to practice social skills and table manners and to discover new foods


Classes also include “circle time” or “music class” where the teacher leads the class in singing songs, dancing, playing musical instruments, and reading stories. This is a chance for children to practice sitting still, listening to a teacher, and participating in a group activity, all essential skills for kindergarten readiness. Academic skill-building (reading, writing, pre-math skills) is integrated into all types of activities.

What makes these children’s programs different from other programs?

Diverse Experiences in One Familiar Setting: Most children’s programs focus on one domain of learning: dance class, art class, story time, music class, or tumbling. These programs do it all. And they do it in a known space where the child feels safe and comfortable. Some of the same toys activities reappear from week to week to provide reassurance and routine, and some new toys and activities rotate in to encourage children to explore and try new things.

Long-Term Relationships: Lots of programs run in short sessions of 4 – 6 classes. Parent ed programs run for the full school year. Seeing the same children week after week allows kids to build friendships.

Close parental involvement: Parents are always welcome in the classroom.

What are they like from the parent perspective: how do they work?

Each program works a bit differently, so check to be sure of the details, but here is the general idea:

Parent-infant Classes and Parent-Toddler Classes: Meet weekly for two hours. Every other week, the parents attend a one hour parent education session. In infant classes (for babies birth to one year old), the baby remains with the parent for parent ed. In toddler classes (for one-year-old and two-year-old toddlers), children are encouraged to play in one room with the children’s teachers and other parents while their parent attends parent ed.

Staffing and Parents’ Role: Each class is staffed by a parent educator and one or two children’s teachers. Parents provide snacks for the class on a rotating basis. Each family may bring snacks 1 – 3 times a year. Parents may also be asked to help tidy up the toys at the end of the class.

Cooperative Preschools:Three-year-olds may attend 2 or 3 days a week, four-year-olds attend 3 or 4 days a week. Typically, the parent stays with the child and works in the classroom one day per week, and the other days are “drop-off” preschool for that family. Classes may be 2 – 3 hours long.

Staffing: There is a preschool teacher, trained in early childhood education, who is responsible for planning and coordinating the children’s activities, and leading group times. A parent educator observes / consults during some class sessions, and offers a monthly parent education session plus one-on-one expert parenting advice.

Parents contribute by working in the classroom once a week. They also help with the running of the school by: providing snacks, fundraising support, helping with end-of-year cleanings, serving on the board (chair, treasurer, secretary, etc.), or as class photographer, play-dough maker, etc.

Length of program:Most classes (parent-child and coops) meet for the full school year – September through May. [Note: sometimes families need to leave during the year, so if you’re looking for a class in the winter or spring, check with programs to see if they have openings – they’ll often have a few.] Some have summer programs.

What do Programs Cost?

For some programs, you pay by the month, some by the quarter, some by the year. If you look at the cost for a quarter (11 weeks) or year (33 weeks), it may look like a lot compared to other children’s activities in the community. So, to compare apples to apples, it’s best to look at it as cost-per-hour. Infant and toddler groups at our local community colleges range from $7.00 – 11.00 per hour. For comparison’s sake, here’s what a sample of other programs cost on an hourly basis:

  • Big motor activities: Gymboree $30, Gymnastics East $20, Northwest Aerials $13
  • Parent education and support: Mommy Matters $22 plus child care costs. Baby Peppers $9
  • Art programs: Kidsquest $17 per hour. Kirkland Parks $13. Kirkland Arts Center $10.
  • Music programs: Kindermusik $22, Kirkland Parks $11. Bellevue Parks $21 for residents.

Cooperative preschools in these programs range from $7 – 9.50 an hour. For comparison sake:

  • Bellevue public schools, $10 per hour. Bellevue Christian School $10. Bellevue Boys & Girls Club $11. Bellevue Montessori $16. Jewish Day School $18. Villa Academy $18. Seattle Waldorf $22. Cedar Crest $24.
  • Note: most preschools have an adult/child ratio ranging from 1:6 – 1:9. At a coop, the ratio may be 1:3 or 1:4.

All the parent education programs and cooperative preschools offer scholarships to lower income families which can further reduce the cost.

What makes these programs different from other programs?

College credit and student privileges: Parent education programs are college classes, and parents receive college credit for attending. They can also receive student ID cards, which depending on the school may give access to discounts and services such as fitness center or gym access.

Parent Education: Experienced professional educators offer information that is current and research-based but also relevant to the day-to-day reality of parenting little ones. Topics are tailored to the age and needs of the families, but may include: daily routines, discipline, child development, early learning, nutrition, potty training, emotional intelligence, and self-care for parents.

Individualized Advice: Parent educators and children’s teachers have the opportunity to get to know each child as an individual, and also get to know parents well. This allows them to answer questions in a highly personalized way. They can also refer on for additional services when needed.

Parent Involvement: Participating in your child’s classroom from day one encourages you to think of yourself as an active participant in your child’s learning and an advocate for them in future classrooms. You’ll know the other children and can help your child learn about them. You’ll know what happened in class, so you can later reinforce the learning. Seeing classroom activities may give you new ideas for what you can do at home to enhance your child’s development. Having the opportunity to observe other children each week helps give you a deeper understanding of child development, and seeing parents respond to their children shows you options for parenting style.

Peer Support and Long-Term Relationships: Parents meet with other parents over the course of many months, which allows for long-term connections. Working together on projects strengthens those bonds, as does the peer support gained when parents discuss and share the joys and challenges of caring for kids.

Programs offer classes for families with children from birth through age 5, so instead of having to search for new classes every month or every year, you always know where you can find a fun and educational class for you and your child.

Learn More about Programs Near You and Register Now!

Note: Classes for 2014 – 15 start in September but it is best to register in spring or summer, because they do fill up!

Program Name / Website Locations * Ages Served / Programs
Bellevue Collegewww.bellevuecollege.edu/parented/ Bellevue, Carnation, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Renton, Sammamish, Snoqualmie Birth to 7: Parent-Child (day & evening), Coop, Dad & Me, Science Enrichment
Edmonds Community Collegewww.edcc.edu/pared/ Edmonds, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Mill Creek, Snohomish 7 months to 5: Parent-Child, Coop Preschool, Daddy & Me
Green River CC. Limited info available online: www.greenriver.edu/academics/areas-of-study/details/parent-child-education.htm. Auburn area, birth to age 5.
Lake WA Institute of Technologywww.lwtech.edu/parented Bothell, Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville 5 months to 5 yrs: Parent-Child and Coop Preschool
North Seattle Community Collegehttp://coops.northseattle.edu/ Several sites in Seattle, north of ship canal to NE 145th. Vashon. Birth to 5: Parent-Child (day and evening), Coop Preschool
Seattle Central Community Collegewww.parentchildcenterseattle.org/ Capitol Hill, Mt. Baker, Madison Pk, Rainier Val, Queen Anne Birth to 5 yrs: Parent-Child and Coop Preschool
Shoreline Community Collegewww.shoreline.edu/parenting-education/ Shoreline, Bothell, Inglemoor (Kirkland), Woodinville Birth to 5 yrs: Parent-Child and Coop Preschool
South Seattle Community College https://sites.google.com/a/southseattle.edu/homelife/ SCCC campus, Admiral, Alki, Arbor Heights, Lincoln Park Birth to 5 yrs: Parent-Child and Coop Preschool

*Not all ages served at all sites. For example, most programs only have infant classes at one site.

** I don’t know whether community colleges in other cities have similar programs. They might!

Would you like to print this information for your reference or to share with a friend? Get the PDF here.

If you want more information right now about parenting, look in the “categories” section on the right hand column and click through to any topic that interests you (for example, you can read my posts about choosing a preschool or find lyrics to songs your child will love.) To receive updates as I publish new articles, go to the right hand column and click on “like me on Facebook” or “follow this blog.”

Self Care for Parents

Any time you travel on an airplane, the flight attendants announce that if the oxygen masks drop down, you should first put on your own mask, and ‘then assist small children.’ This is good advice for parenting in general. Yes, our children have many needs that have to be met, and many more desires they would like fulfilled. But in order to have the energy to care for them, you need to make sure that you’re also taking care of yourself! Take a few whiffs of parenting “oxygen” now and then to rejuvenate yourself.

Here are some tips for what to do when you’re running on empty.

Ideas for meeting your physical needs:

  • Exercise, on your own and as a family
  • Sleep (as much as  you can), and nap when your child naps
  • Eat right: food affects mood, so try to cut down on sugars and processed foods
  • Get or give a massage. Cuddle, kiss, or make love with your partner
  • Take a hot shower, or a long bath (add a little lavender oil to increase relaxation)
  • Have a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk (or hot chocolate with marshmallows!)
  • Go for a long walk outdoors – on your own, or with your child

Ideas for meeting your emotional and social needs:

  • Spend time with friends each week. Spend time alone each day
  • Prioritize the activities that make you happy
  • Be creative / flexible about social activities you can work around your child’s needs
  • Schedule time each day to talk to another adult
  • Allow yourself to cry. Find things that make you laugh
  • Find a way to have a weekly date with your partner
  • Say no to extra responsibilities

Ideas for meeting intellectual needs:

  • Take your child to the library, but pick up a book or video for yourself while  you’re there
  • Listen to radio shows, audio books, or podcasts while you drive or work around the house
  • If your child is doing an art project, sit down and create your own art!
  • Write – stories, a blog, a journal – get your thoughts out on paper or screen
  • Watch documentaries on TV, or on DVD from the library or Netflix
  • Return to old hobbies you may not have pursued since your child’s birth

Ideas for meeting spiritual needs:

  • Go to religious services (or listen / view online)
  • Meditate or pray each morning, or each evening
  • Do volunteer work or help out others spontaneously
  • Contribute to causes you believe in
  • Spend time outdoors
  • Write in a journal – reflect on your new life
  • Be open to inspiration and awe

Every morning when your alarm goes off, or shortly after your child wakes you, spend one minute in bed deciding what you are going to do for yourself that day. Start small – promise yourself just 15 minutes a day. You’ll soon see the rewards (for yourself, and your family) of a little bit of “me time.”


I just discovered a great resource. The Just in Time parenting e-newsletter, developed by Cooperative Education faculty in colleges across the country. They’re free of charge, commercial-free, research-based, easy to understand, and easy to share with your partner and other people who care for your child. To give you a sense of the range of content, the articles in the 18-month newsletters are: Use Words to Describe the Way Your Child Feels (ties into our next topic for class – on Emotional Intelligence), Spanking Doesn’t Work – Teaching Children How to Act, What is it like to be 17-18 months old; Sharing is Hard – Start Teaching Your Toddler Now; Avoid Spoiling Your Child: Set and Reinforce Limits; Set Mealtime Routines with your Family; Let Your Child Decide How Much to Eat, Let Your Toddler Help Around the House; A Hearing Test is Important; When others criticize, you can listen but not agree; Teach Your Child to Connect Sounds to Objects.

How to view:

Go here (http://jitp.extension.org/) and click on subscribe now and they will email you monthly newsletters till your child turns one, then newsletters every other month to age 5.

Or, you can just scroll to the bottom of that page and “browse” the newsletters right now. For me, at least, the PDF’s are not working, but the webpage versions are.

They have podcasts for 1 – 12 months. I haven’t listened to them yet… You can listen with any device that has a Flash player, or can get through I-Tunes store:


More thoughts about temperament

In a recent post, we looked at toddler temperament and how it effects parenting. I listed 9 different temperament traits – for each one you might list where your child lies on the continuum.

Some researchers and authors have tried to distill these down into four common types, or five common types. Check out the categories below, and see if you think any of them describe your child.

Clusters of Traits

When researchers looked at the 9 categories, they observed three common “clusters” of traits.

Easy Child, aka Flexible – 40%. This child is predictable, open to new situations, extremely adaptable, positive mood, average activity level, and don’t over-react to stressors. An easy child can fit into any environment, is likable, and helps the adults around him/her to feel successful. The downside is that this child can be overlooked or forgotten in a crowd when attention is focused on kids with ‘problems.’

Slow to Warm Up, aka Fearful or Cautious – 15%. May have low activity level, be afraid of new people and new situations, slow to adapt to change, sensitive, and serious. With too much pressure, this child has melt-downs. On the other hand, if he’s never pushed, he may never make any progress. With preparation, support, and gentle, respectful encouragement, this child can do well. This may require a lot of patience on the part of the caregiver who will need support from peers to manage their frustrations.

Difficult, aka Feisty – 10%. Fussy, unpredictable, with-drawing, hates change, negative, and has intense reactions to things that disturb her. This child is exhausting to all around, leaving caregivers angry, resentful, incompetent, confused. This child can be hard to like, and tends to get negative feedback from those around him. Looking for the child’s positive traits and helping to bring those out, and reduce the impact of the negative traits will help over time. Caregivers need breaks from the child, and support for their challenges.

35% of kids didn’t align with any of these clusters of traits. Some have proposed adding the “Active” child, who is similar to the easy child in many ways (positive mood, not over-sensitive) but can be so active he exhausts his caregivers. This child benefits from LOTS of physical activity. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ever take him places where he needs to sit still (church, movies, etc.). But before going to those places, you may stop by the playground to run off some energy!

Tracy Hogg’s 5 types

The Five Temperaments

You may also run across information about the “5 temperaments” from the work of Tracy Hogg author of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers. Here’s how those types line up with the 9 traits.

Angel Toddler: Moderate energy, predictable, approaches new situations easily, very adaptable, less intense reactions, happy, easy to distract from no-nos. Adapts well to any style of parenting.

Textbook Toddler: Moderate activity, VERY predictable, can be shy at first but quickly adjusts, loves routine (low adaptability), low sensitivity, moderate moods, moderately persistent. Likes routines.

Touchy Toddler: Not regular / predictable, slow to warm up to new situations, not adaptable, HIGH sensitivity, intense reactions, very low distractibility / high persistence.  Needs structure/predictability.

Spirited Toddler: VERY active, bold in new situations, moderate sensitivity, high intensity, high persistence. Needs clear limits, and an outlet for their energy.

Grumpy Toddler:  Active. Sensitive, intense reactions. Negative mood / hard to please. Needs space, control/choices.
To learn more, go to www.ivillage.com/five-toddler-temperaments/6-a-144861; or take a quiz to determine your baby’s type: www.babywhispererforums.com/index.php?topic=52283.0;wap2

Here’s a list of all the sources I used for my two posts on temperament:

Recommended overviews

Your baby’s temperament, The parent-baby fit http://www.todaysparent.com/baby/baby-development/your-babys-temperament/

Why Time-Out Doesn’t Work for All Kids and Other Secrets From Temperament-Based Parenting at http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Why_Time_Out_Doesnt/

Recommended online quizzes – include customized tips for how to parent a child with your child’s temperament

The Ready for Life temperament quiz (www.readyforlife.org/temperament/quiz/start)

The Infant Toddler Temperament Tool (IT3) http://www.ecmhc.org/temperament/index.html.

Other sources I used

Tips for creating a “Goodness of Fit” between a child and his parents and environment: http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/child-development/unique-child-equation/temperament/understanding-goodness-of-fit/

Goodness of Fit Worksheet for Both Parents to complete: http://parents2parents.ca/files/pages/Goodness_of_Fit_Worksheet_P2P.pdf

Parentmaking. Rothenber, et al. 1995.

How to parent with different temperaments. www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/how-to-parent-with-different-temperaments/

“Temperament and Goodness of Fit” – http://resources.childhealthcare.org/cocoon/dtw/temperament.html


Parenting your child’s temperament: http://www.babyzone.com/kids/discipline/child-temperament-part-one_73349?page=3

What kind of temperament does my baby have? http://resources.childhealthcare.org/details.do;jsessionid=9E410BA3645AF819662AB5F47E8856EF?id=8121

Is your child’s temperament a good fit with yours? www.deseretnews.com/article/765573111/Is-your-childs-temperament-a-good-fit-with-yours.html

The Importance of Temperament: https://www.childdevelopmentmedia.com/importance-of-temperament-in-infants-and-children-chess-thomas

Early Childhood Temperament Sorter: http://parentingbytemperament.com/earlychildsort.php. Note: this is a GREAT tool for parents of children age 4 – 8. It offers a quiz to determine your child’s type and your own type, and then tips on how to manage both. Not really suited to a toddler.


During our first week of toddler class, we are pretty informal, mostly letting the children just explore the new environment in unguided free play. Sometimes parents feel the pressure to be actively “teaching” their children all the time, and may not see the value in free play, thinking of it as “wasted time”.

Here’s a link to one great article which addresses some of the ways that children learn through play: www.parentingcounts.org/professionals/parenting-handouts/information-for-parents-play.pdf